Summary: God determined the death of Jesus to rescue his people from death and hell.
Genesis 3.15 first mentions the sacrificial death of the Messiah: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."
The promises continue through the Old Testament, often by types and symbols. The sacrifices so central to Israel’s religious rites illustrate the interposition of innocent blood between God and mankind. The synagogue and temple, with their holiest places, prefigure a hope that we would one day reenter the presence of God, cleansed from sin by the ministry of the high priest. And maybe the greatest picture of all, Isaac carrying his tree of death to the top of the mountain - until God himself provides the sacrifice.
Then there are passages like Daniel 9, which (though cryptic) hint of the atoning death of Messiah: "Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing" (Daniel 9.25-26).
Some texts are more explicit. Zechariah 13.7: "’Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,’ declares the Lord of hosts. ’Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’" Psalm 16.10: "For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption." Zechariah 12.10: "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child...." And one of the most direct, Isaiah 53.5,12: "He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.... Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors."
In fact, the Bible teaches so clearly the death of Messiah for his people, that Jesus seems incredulous his disciples missed it: "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" (Luke 24.25). And the apostle Paul insists it is a matter of first importance: "that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures" (1Corinthians 15.3).
With this background, we might expect Jesus’ hours on the cross to fulfill some specific Scriptures. And as John describes the crucifixion, he mentions four times that all happened as prophesied in the Old Testament.
[Read John 19.17-42. Pray.]
Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a New York Times bestseller exploring the problem of evil and suffering. When Bad Things Happen to Good People claims that readers of the "parable of Job" want three things to be true. We want to believe that:
a. God is all-powerful and causes everything that happens in the world. Nothing happens without his willing it.
b. God is just and fair, and stands for people getting what they deserve, so that the good prosper and the wicked are punished.
c. Job is a good person.
Kushner: "As long as Job is healthy and wealthy, we can believe all three at the same time with no difficulty. When Job suffers...we have a problem. We can now affirm any two only by denying the third¡¨ (37). Job’s counselors solve the problem by holding tightly to a) and b), convinced that Job must be very bad indeed. Readers, however, know that Job was the most righteous man on earth.
Most people, like Job himself, give up on answer b). Some do so by calling God cruel, since the innocent suffer so much in this world. Religious people, squeamish about criticizing God, usually postpone the fairness till the future. God will make everything right in the end.
Kushner, instead, suggests that a) is the premise which must yield. Job is good, and God is just and fair, but NO ONE can control the whole universe! Kushner claims God says as much at the end of Job: "The most important lines in the entire book may be the ones spoken by God from the whirlwind, chapter 40, verses 9-14: ’Have you an arm like God? Can you thunder with a voice like his? You tread down the wicked where they stand.... Then will I acknowledge that your own right hand can give you the victory.’ I take these lines to mean, ’if you think that it is so easy to keep the world straight and true, to keep unfair things from happening to people, you try it.’ God wants the righteous to live peaceful, happy lives, but sometimes even he can’t bring that about. It is too difficult even for God to keep cruelty and chaos from claiming their innocent victims."